Police open fire on femicide protest in Mexico

Several people were injured when police opened fire during a protest against femicide in Cancun, Mexico on November 9. People across the globe expressed shock and horror as news of the crackdown spread across social media. 

Screengrab of one of the videos below. This was filmed during a protest against femicides in Cancún, Mexico on November 9.
Screengrab of one of the videos below. This was filmed during a protest against femicides in Cancún, Mexico on November 9. © Facebook

The protest was called after three femicides in Quintana Roo: One woman was killed in the town of Jose Maria Morelos and two others in Cancun. Their bodies all showed signs of torture. The protesters, rallied by the Quintana Roo Feminist Network, demanded justice for the victims and denounced violence against women in general. 

This protest against femicides took place in Cancún on November 9.

"I saw police officers about 20 or 30 metres from me and then I started to hear shots being fired”

Nadia, a member of a group called DAS (which stands for Rights, Autonomy and Sexuality in Spanish) and Pride Cancun (Fierte Cancun) took part in the protest. 

I went to the protest because I was really affected by these three femicides and because Mexico isn’t a safe place for women in general. Feminist organizations have been working with the authorities on these issues since the large protest held in Cancún on March 8 [Editor’s note: on International Women’s Day], but unfortunately, nothing is happening quickly.

We gathered around 5pm in front of the building of the Public Ministry, because that is the government body responsible for investigating femicides. Members of women’s rights organizations were there as well as the family members of Alexis [Editor’s note: 20-year-old Alexis was one of the women killed in Cancún that weekend] and her friends and teachers. There were a lot of teenagers who attended. I think that there were about 600 of us in total [Editor’s note: the media reported around 2,000 people]. Some carried photos of the victims. There were speeches. We stayed there for about two hours.

Nadia filmed this video showing people gathered in front of the Public Ministry in Cancún on November 9.

Nadia took these photos during the rally against femicides in Cancún on November 9.

Some people wanted to go to City Hall. But en route, certain people started destroying traffic signs. By the time we got there, I think there were only about a hundred of us left. We were yelling “Justice for Alexis!” but then some people started damaging City Hall, breaking windows and throwing rocks. Some people even went into the building and came out carrying things.

Nadio filmed this video in front of City Hall in Cancún on November 9. You can hear women calling out for justice for Alexis and the sound of windows breaking. 

That’s when a group of police descended on us. I saw them about 20 or 30 metres away from me and then I heard shots being fired. I started running, along with everyone else, to hide in a nearby park. I don’t know if they were firing real bullets or rubber bullets but, later, real bullets were found at the site. The police beat some people and carried out numerous arrests. It’s the first time I’ve seen this kind of crackdown on a protest in Cancún. We are wondering who gave the order for the police to act in that way. 

Nadia sent our team this video. It was filmed by someone who was near her when the police opened fire in front of Cancún City Hall on November 9.

This video, filmed in front of Cancún’s City Hall on November 9, shows police violently cracking down on protesters, starting at 0’30. The man filming the video yells out, “I’m here with them! Calm down, those are my students!” At 2’05, he says to a police officer: "Are you aware that you are firing bullets during a peaceful protest?” You can hear shots being fired during most of the video.

Police officers violently push a protester during a demonstration in Cancún on November 9.

At least four people were wounded during the demonstration, according to the Mexican media. Two journalists were shot – one in the shoulder and another in the leg. 

Cancún’s Director of Public Security removed from his post 

No local officials have yet taken responsibility for what happened. The governor of Quintana Roo, Carlos Joaquín Gonzalez, said he gave "precise instructions" that there should be "no physical violence and no weapons during the protests on this day". The secretary of Public Security in Quintana Roo, Alberto Capella, said he had called for an “internal investigation”. The mayor of Cancun, Mara Lezama, also claimed that she had "given specific instructions for investigations to be opened [into the incident]".

She also demanded that the city’s Director of Public Security, Eduardo Santamaría, "be removed immediately from his post".

Numerous human rights organisations, including the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, condemned "the excessive use of force” and “lethal weapons” during the protest.

Last year, a total of 34,608 intentional homicides and 1,012 femicides – cases where a woman or girl was killed by someone, usually a man because of her gender – were reported in Mexico, according to official statistics. The figures represents the highest number of femicides since officials began collecting data on these crimes.